To the disappointment of the basketball world, the Miami Heat's LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have not and will not participate in the NBA's Slam Dunk Contest. So, for our enjoyment, let's force them to participate in one through a hypothetical Heat-only dunk contest.
Let's take the top-three dunkers on the Heat and break down their dunking ability, then determine who would be the best of the best in a dunk contest.
The three participants: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and, yes, Chris "Birdman" Andersen.
James' reasoning for not wanting to participate in the NBA's dunk competition makes plenty of sense. James isn't the type of finesse dunker that usually wins contests. LeBron is a power dunker.
Still, LeBron's viscous throwdowns are too impressive and fun to watch for him not to be a serious contender in a Heat-only dunk contest.
Due to his athleticism and strength, LeBron is an unbelievably skilled alley-oop dunker, which would be helpful in this competition.
LeBron has shown during in-game situations that he's more than capable of a dunk contest worthy alley-oop.
There was the reverse alley-oop he threw down against the Sacramento Kings earlier this season, which shows off his ability to adjust in mid-air.
Also, he essentially turned John Lucas III into a prop during a jam against the Chicago Bulls last season, so bringing out a tall prop (or a person) for him to dunk over would be a fun possibility.
Simply put, LeBron isn't a dunk contest dunker, but he's such an athletic freak that he would still do an excellent job.
As for Wade, he falls into a similar category as LeBron in that he's more of an in-game dunker than a high-flying slam dunk contest type of guy.
Many of Wade's top dunks throughout his career are of the "posterization" variety, which can't be replicated in a dunk contest.
Take this slam on Anderson Varejao of the Cleveland Cavaliers, for example.
Also, Wade is now 31 years old and dunk competitions are built for the young.
Wade is not in his dunk competition prime. It goes without saying that 25-year-old "Flash" would perform much better in a dunk contest than the current version of Wade.
But even at an older age Wade is still a supreme athlete, superior in that sense to everyone on the Heat not named LeBron James. So he's certainly capable of producing a couple of exciting jams in a contest like this.
Now, for our final competitor. Putting the man who refers to himself as "Bird" on a list of potential winners might seem nonsensical at first, but he absolutely deserves placement here.
First of all, Andersen is the only player on the Heat other than Ray Allen in 1997 to have participated in an NBA Dunk Contest. Andersen participated in the 2004 and 2005 contests.
It needs to be noted that Andersen's performances, while memorable, were pretty awful. In 2004 he finished third among four competitors, and in 2005 he finished in last place. Also, it was in the 2005 contest in which he became the laughingstock of the NBA after attempting the same dunk eight consecutive times without converting.
Still, the fact that Andersen was chosen to participate in the contests in the first place says something about his ability.
Also, there was the following surprising news recently reported by ESPN's Chris Broussard that would bode well for Andersen in a Heat-only dunk contest:
Chris Broussard @Chris_Broussard
Spoelstra told our ESPN game crew Chris Andersen's vertical was 37 inches in his Heat workout. Spo said only LeBron tops that on the Heat2/7/2013, 2:24:44 PM
That's awfully impressive for Andersen, especially considering he's 34 years old.
But just like Wade, age is a factor for him.
Plus, if Andersen couldn't finish better than second to last in two tries when he was at seemingly his athletic peak, how could he be expected to win a contest against a field that includes an in-his-prime James?
Andersen deserves to be in the competition, but it's hard to envision a scenario in which he would come out on top.
No surprise here. LeBron James would win a Miami Heat-only dunk contest.
If a dunk contest specialist with ridiculous hops and moves like a James White or Jeremy Evans were on the Heat, then LeBron might not be the runaway winner.
But no such players are on Miami's roster. LeBron wouldn't be facing too stiff of competition in this contest.
LeBron would bring out a partner to toss him some alley-oops, maybe bring out someone else to jump over and ride his unparalleled athleticism to victory.
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